Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Witch-hunt: Coming to a Town Near You.

Tonight's documentary 'Accused' (BBC2, 9:00 - 10:30 PM), describing the South Ronaldsay ritual child abuse scandal was a case study in how witch-hunts develop.

In 1991, nine children were siezed from their beds on the remote island of South Ronaldsay in a dawn raid by police and social workers.

The authorities had become convinced that an organised paedophile ring was at work in the community, and ritual child sexual abuse was being practiced.

The children were separated, and held in different locations including a young offenders' institution in Glasgow. They were subjected to medical examinations, including genital examination and anal swabs. All medical examinations proved negative.

However, despite weeks of pressure from a group of trained adult professionals, no children claimed to have been abused.

The psychological toll on those affected was enormous. One boy, being held in a young offenders' institution, was terrified that if he gave the wrong answers his parents would go to prison. His mother, meanwhile, was terrified that he would be raped in prison and contract HIV. Rumours were rife on South Ronaldsay of further child abductions by state authorities, with justification. The head of social work in the region said "We will take every child on South Ronaldsay if we have to".

Meanwhile the families and the local community were mobilising. They held demonstrations, got the media on their side. There was evidence of the islanders even beginning to organise armed resistance, should the social workers return. "There seemed to be a proliferation of marine distress flares in people's houses", one witness noted. The island's farmers kept shotguns under their bed, and proposed to man barricades to keep the authorities out if any more child abductions were attempted.

Eventually, the case came to court. "the case came before Sheriff David Kelbie in Kirkwall...Sheriff Kelbie listened to the tapes of the interviews with all the children, heard their denials, heard the leading questions, and decided he could not let the case continue. It was, he said, fatally flawed."

The children were eventually returned to their families after five weeks.

How could something so bizarre happen in a country like the UK, in the 1990s?

A male child protection officer stated that the social work department was dominated by a committed group of feminists who were setting the agenda. He himself was sidelined and expected to follow their decisions.

"Leading the interviews with the children...was social worker Liz McLean, employed by the RSSPCC. She was an adherent of American theories on how to find and identify incidents of sexual and satanic abuse, believed by certain groups to be rife. A list of "abuse indicators" was widely used by social workers. One of these said that if children said they hadn't been abused, they had...her team...followed her lead, adopting her conviction that child abuse was widespread and had to be discovered by any means...The children were asked leading questions, told what to draw and promised food if they gave the right answers. Some gave the answers they thought were expected just to make the interrogation stop."

"There were many other mistakes. Orkney Islands Council took the rather garbled interviews from three confused young children and decided they were absolute truth. Without checking anything with teachers, doctors or anyone else, they acted. They decided that "everyone" in the community was involved"

All the classic ingredients of a witch-hunt. Ideological zealotry. Irrational disregard for evidence. Intimidation. Hysteria spiralling out of control.

Why am I not surprised to find feminist - and particularly American feminist - involvement? Sadly, everything that feminist and post-modernist academics endorse will produce exactly these tyrannical outcomes. The Family is inherently oppressive. Male sexuality is inherently coercive. Only women can save the world. There is no such thing as the truth. Evidential standards are a sinister male language game designed to silence women. As long as people believe this nonsense, such cases will continue.

Only the determination of the local community and the clarity of Sheriff Kelbie's thought saved the situation. Commenting on the community's response, the male social worker made the very telling comment: "We are used to dealing with the inarticulate poor. We are not so good at dealing with the articulate middle-class".

What became of the perpetrators? Liz McLean "was robustly criticised by Lord Clyde in the inquiry that followed". She has disappeared, and has not been seen by her former colleagues.

The RSSPCC eventually admitted they had got it wrong and apologised to the Orkney parents in a live broadcast on BBC Radio Scotland.

The assistant witchfinder, "Janette Chisholm makes it very clear that, 15 years on, her views about the case have not changed. She still believes the nine children were abused, despite their denials as children and their denials today". Indeed she made it clear in her interview that she interprets their denials as evidence. "Abused children always deny that they have been abused". There is nothing more dangerous than a well-meaning idiot. This woman does not have the first clue about basic science, logic or investigative methods, and yet she is closely involved in an investigation of this kind.

Her claim is Abused children deny that they have been abused, therefore denials of abuse are in fact an indication of abuse. Just to spell it out, there are two major problems with this claim. Firstly, the premise "Abused children deny that they have been abused" is an article of faith. It is at best questionable, and would need to be supported by empirical evidence. However, even if it is true, her conclusion is where the real stupidity comes in. Therefore denials of abuse are in fact an indication of abuse.

This seems to be a case of the quantifier shift fallacy: Every road leads to some place, therefore, there is some place that every road leads to.

It could also be understood as an unfalsifiable closed system, in which falsifying evidence is re-interpreted in terms of the system being criticised. So, if you criticise Christianity, a Christian might respond 'You're only saying that because you have been blinded by Satanic influence, and cannot see the true light', or when criticising Marxism, a Marxist might retort 'You're only saying that because you have been influenced by Bourgeois false consciousness'. The theory admits no independent standpoint from which it can be assessed. The classic hallmark of an ideology.

This sad old cow will go to her grave believing she was saving the world and no-one understood or appreciated her.

By such people, on the basis of such thinking, are lives and families torn apart.

It would be bizarre enough if this was an isolated case, but it is very far from it. There is Shieldfield, Lewis, Rochdale, Cleveland, to name just a few. Misandrist, heterophobic, radical feminist ideology lies at the heart of every single one.

No-one, as far as I am aware, has even been fired, let alone prosecuted.

Do you find this stuff a cause for concern, or is it just me?

Further reading.